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Tactical AR-15 Optics Rifles Riflescopes

The Best AR-15 Optics at Every Price Point

by Keith Wood   |  July 9th, 2013 46

In its various configurations, the AR-15 is arguably the most versatile rifle on the planet. With designs suited for fighting, plinking and hunting at distances from a few feet to a thousand yards, the AR’s capabilities and applications run the gamut. Just as no rifle or carbine is right for every job, neither is every optic. Today’s rifleman has such a wide variety of optics, the choices can be overwhelming. Let’s take a look at the best AR-15 optics at every price point.

  • Tracy Thorleifson

    Too bad Burris didn’t make the list. I’ve got an MTAC 1-4x-24 and it’s a great scope for the price. I’m normally a Leupold guy, but I chose the Burris because it has true 1x magnification at the low end, which allows for seamless both-eyes-open shooting, unlike the competitive Leupold scopes.

  • Dianne Owens

    Great list! I am a huge fan of nikon scopes and I am totally agree it is included in this selection. I have checked several AR-15 scopes reviews at

    • JakeHound

      Dianne, I too and a fan of Nikon’s. $100 for Rimfire to $300 for all else will get you one hell of a fine scope. Nikon’s have some of the clearest glass and features for the money not to mention their “Lifetime Warrantee”. If you can get your hands on one of their Buckmaster line on sale, you’ll be amazed at the quality of scope you get for the money. I just ordered and received a Buckmaster 4.5x14x40 for 199.98 plus $12.23 shipping for my Browning BAR 30-06. Last month I ordered and received a Prostaff Rimfire 3x9x40 for $109.00 with free shipping for my Marlin 60, .22. Put em’ on the rifles, got em’ lined up, and can shoot fist size groups @ 100 yards with both. Not too bad in my world of less than rock steady hands and eyes that are 61 years of age if I say so myself. I’m betting if I had young eyes and steady hands, I’d be less than half that size with my groups. in other words, one look in the Nikon scopes and you’ll realize it’s not the limitations on the equipment, it’s the user.

  • bestar15scopes

    There are a ton of different options of reticles, magnifications, lengths, weights, eye reliefs, and cost; you’ve got to do some independent research to find the right scope. What it really comes down to is finding the right combination of those options that fits YOUR needs. Be it target shooting, hunting, or even defense. Do this and figure out what scope will get the job done for you

  • José Pulido

    SWFA SS 6×42 is probably the best option for a budget minded person that wants precision out of an AR-15, or any medium-long range target rifle.

    $300 and it will last forever. It comes in either MOA reticle/MOA turrets or mildot reticle/MRAD turrets.

  • Nutzi Pelosi

    Everyone of the so called experts has you purchasing a $500 to $1,000 scope for a $600-$1200 AR . Which makes no sense . Call me old fashioned but I own an S&W MP15 .223/5.56 $600 and some change out the door, and I fire the cheap bulk Russian steel cased ammo $5 to $6 for a 20 round box, ,so guess what I am not blowing a half grand or more on some over priced and over rated optics which pretty much can be had on an AR15 for anywhere from $50 to $75 bucks , I slapped a BSA 4×30 tactical scope on it for $45.00 and it will be as accurate and effective and reliable as the high end scopes. An AR15 is pretty much a working mans recreational and hunting rifle.

    • Ryan Cook

      this is just the response somone gives when they are feeling too cheap to spend money on good gear =) a $45 bsa is meant for airsoft guns. a good optic like an acog makes all the difference in the world…but i guess u got to shoot one to understand.

      • Heckler

        Actually, it’s an accurate response. Why would you waste thousands of dollars on an optic to go plink on the range, or go on a hog hunt with a $600-$1000 rifle? If you were smart, you’d be spending that money on the rifle itself, if you actually cared about performance. ACOG’s are great if you’re going on super cool tactical ninja missions. But for everday plinking? not so much.

        • Andy

          The ACOG is great for any shooting style. Be it plinking or medium range hunting,not just “ninja missions”.It is reliable,accurate and fool proof. It is a little expensive but you get what you pay for.

          • Heckler

            I agree with you, the ACOG is a hell of an optic. Ives used them along with EOTechs in the service, and they have served me well. But let’s be realistic. You don’t NEED a combat ready optic to go to the range or hunt hogs on your back 40, you WANT one. There’s a difference. A good bushnell would serve you just as well in a non combat environment as an ACOG would. Would I trust it in a SHTF moment? Sure, not as much as an ACOG though. But I’m not going to spend a thousand dollars to take my rifle to the range, in a bag, to kill paper with an ACOG. It’s a waste of money, in my opinion, to buy an optic that won’t do anymore than a reasonably price optic that is BDC would at a range. At the end of the day it’s all about personal preference.

          • john

            your logic is sound. use your resources were it counts. punching paper and punching bad guys are two different things. if your sending lead down range to meet BG’s I’ll
            opt for the best I can afford if it’s paper a $50 optic will work.
            As it happens, the time spent peeping on the $50 optic is well spent when you Really Must use your $500 optic on BG’s
            As we all know it the time working with your tools that really count when TSHTF

          • Wayne Winstead

            Yeah, You get no money for ammo and practice. Practice makes you good emptying your wallet does not!

        • mike

          Honestly you can spend as much on a rifle as you want, but if you can’t see the target you can’t hit it.

      • Sgt Y

        Quite the contrary. I use the ACOG for my job (for the M4 and the M16 which se differen ACOGs) and i use a TASCO for recreation (on my 5.56×45 / .223 as well s a SIG SAUER otic on my 7.62×39 rifle. Neither are extremely expensive. (maybe $100 max) and are accurate at 500 meters, just like we train for in the Marines.

      • MikeSD

        I couldn’t agree more.

    • Dieselhorses

      He is right. True and yes, you get what you pay for but then again that involves trial and error. If I can humanely take a whitetail at 430 yards with my 7mm Rem. mag but with prior measures to carefully sight in my rifle topped with a 99.00 Bushnell Dusk to Dawn 3x9x50 and shoot 1″ groups all day with Rem Core lok then yes, I would say most folks get “quality” mixed up with “brand”. It’s not an excuse to get out of paying more money which by the way isn’t going to save anyone who thinks the optics are going to do all the work.

    • Jason Cook

      You need to look at many factors when buying any piece of gear. If you just buy something for no other reason than someone said “This is the best” then frankly your an idiot. You should look at factors like how frequently do you shoot, how much do you shoot when you shoot, what ranges do you shoot at, what is your goal when you shoot and how much money do you have to spend. After you answer all those questions you should have an idea what kind of gear/optics and how much you should spend and what kind of return on investment you are likely to receive.

      To many people are quick to tell you how you should equip and run your rifle. But everything from the equipment you choose to run, how you shoot and what you shoot are personal choices and should be respected. Sure there a difference in that $50 off-band holographic sight and that $1200 EOTech. But if they don’t go to the range much, they don’t shoot well or simply don’t have the money to spend on an optic then let them run what is appropriate for them.

      Weapon Systems are personal, let people run them how they like. If someone ask for advice keep in mind that not everyone shoots as much as you, not everyone is as good shooter as you and not everyone can afford as much as you.

    • Joseph0311

      I am a U.S. Marine and you are correct. I can acquire a target with simple iron sites. That is how we are train and it is the most effective way to achieve success at the range or in combat.

      • wb

        hey marine, i hear you guys are the best at rifle marksmanship. considering that most conflicts involve close quarters, 10-100 yards, is a scope really necessary? understand with my eye sight a scope would make sense for farther away, a sniper i will never be. i can hit my target but as far as keeping the holes within the bullseye i am not capable of such and i simply do not have the money to spend the 5,000 rounds i would need to practice with to get that good. can you give me some tips as to what you learned while a marine that makes a good shot? i came to firearms late in life and i still can’t figure out how to zero a scope. sad i know but i am working on it. any advice would be most appreciated. again, thanks for your help and your service. in the trying times facing america we will need all the help we can get from a few good marines. sometimes it must have seemed like the people at home don’t care. we care. thank you for your service. of all the services nobody has been as loyal to the constitution and american people as the marines.

        • ted

          ill try to help. draw half of a breath and hold it when shooting. relax do not get a white knuckle grip on the rifle. get stable like either sitting or prone. get the gun stable using sandbags or bipod or both. get close like 25 feet then shoot groups of 3. If you have a wild shot discount it and shoot a fourth. when scope lines up move further out such as 25 yards. last squeeze the trigger gently like your favorite part of your lover’s anatomy.

          • nathan

            god you people are bad at teaching. first off never hold your breath. breathe normally when you decide you want to take a shot take a deep breath ” you will see because of the deep breath you are aiming slightly above the target that’s ok its supposed to happen” now slowly exhale you will see the sights slowly lowering into position. when your just a hair above the center of the target pull the trigger “pulling the trigger will drop you into place with the bulls eye . that’s how the pro’s do it and how i teach. it was taught to me by a military sniper at the fort rucker military base that taught the hunter safety course there. he taught me two other things never go shooting when your stressed only when your relaxed and that a scope doesn’t make the man the man makes the scope. i used to watch him at the range with a $100 bushnell scope make shots that guys with thousands of dollars of military gear couldn’t. the point is a cheap well built scope is just as good as a exspensive well built scope. the proble is we dont have any body out there testing these scopes and letting us know. but i will say you can always trust a nikon and for the most part a bushnell.

        • DNA Explains It All

          I am with ted, get comfy, let the rifle fall onto the mark without strain. Slowly (on that half breath) roll the tension onto the trigger. The shot should surprise you. That’s the long and short of it. Zeroing a scope, well BORE sight first. Draw hairs on the bull’s eye and let off a couple three. @ 100 yrds look at your turrets and make the necessary adjustments. I am used to cheap optics, so take a shell casing and give the adjustments a couple taps to settle them between adjustments. You will be a ringer in no time.

          • Master of the Bush

            Bull shit, the shot should never “Scare” you. If you are scared by your firearm discharging then you my friend are not in control of your firearm. When I SQUEEZE my trigger I know exactly the execution point as should anyone who knows and trains regularly with their weapon. This is old Army mentality and it is crap. It is taught that way to newbies to avoid trigger jerk, but after about your tenth round, it better not be scaring you any longer and if it is….. your chosen profession should include a vacuum, not a gun.

          • Master of the Bush

            I meant surprise not scare, please excuse my mis-wording.

        • The Handsome Operator

          Marine, as a former Marine myself and now in a different, more unique military unit, I am not afraid to say that what we were taught as Boots was useful but very applicable to today’s modern battlefield. Marines are by far the most difficult service members to train once they get to our advanced skills (if you will) phase of training. Why? Simple, we were taught to shoot irons at known distances and those targets were stationary. The modern combat environment rarely presents us with such fantastic opportunities to prosecute enemy targets. You would be 100% correct in your iron sights theory if in fact the enemy presented itself standing in such a manner but in fact they never do…for obvious reasons. You can feel free to shoot your iron sights, wasting ammo, opportunity, and valuable time. I, and my brothers will use our optics for both CQB, and at distance which allows us to terminate threat quickly, efficiently and in a timely manner thus allowing us to fight and win again and again. Cheers, Devil Dog!

          • Mike

            I was trained in the Airborne Infantry with the Army in the same manner. We trained with irons as well as M68 CCO’s in basic with M16A4’s. After basic and when i got to the 101st, I utilized an M4 with a 67 with maetech backup sites. Thing works like a damn dream over in Ramadi where combat was typically close quarters (10m-100m range). That being said, Afghanistan is a different ball game as I am sure you are aware. Even in Anbar we used ACOG’s, 68’s, and EOTechs. I preferred my aimpoint for CQB/Urban environs but will gladly take an ACOG for medium range targets (250-350m). Good insight though, no way you are going to hit a guy just popping up his head over a gigantic boulder with irons at 300m. Give me the M14 and the ACOG and we’ll have a good shot :)

        • The Bot

          Work on assumption of no more than hundred meters. Practice at 50 to 75 meters and practice with iron sites. The more rounds down range the better you will be.
          Practice your breathing and trigger squeeze, something no one does anymore but will make you much better shooter, especially the breathing. Good luck

    • Ro Gal

      Man, I have the same gun and I’m looking for the same thing. Don’t need an overpriced optic. Thanks for the tip on BSA.

    • Wayne Winstead

      I agree especially for an ar in 223 or just a hyped 22 you don’t need a magnum scope.

    • Political Smackdown

      ya i would not know about that i shoot a custom built .308 with an 18 inch JP upper. so spending 1200 on my optic is clearly the proper move.. shooting steel case garbage is like wiping my ass with my gun. i guess it is fine for a 600 dollar wad but not for a proper firearm.

  • bigbhunter76

    I wish their scope cost were more accurate. Says the Simmons is at $150 but it’s more like $300.

    • nowayout

      Again check out Leapers line they are a working persons scope not discrediting any other optical….I just cringed at the thought of a 1500.00 set of optics in the truck of my shop while I’m in a chase or whatever case may be…..the Leapers for the AR platform have a strange light gathering ability in low light area its great….anyways a lot of great optics just my .2 cents….happy shopping

  • Diego Martin

    What about the eotech scopes? Are they any good? Do they worth the investment?? Diego from

  • nowayout

    check the Leapers/UTG line of optics…. I have had a Leapers/UTG on my AR for many years and I will go head to head with any other high end optics…. I have used all brands of optics high end and low end optics. I refer to the Leapers/UTG as the working man’s optics. and best thing is if you break it or whatever you are not out 1100+ dollars. It is of course user choice but I would rather spend more on a rifle as one other mentioned. I have taken game at 100 to 400 meters with my Leapers/UTG (AR platform) with my “Long Rifle” I have shot a lot further using the higher end Leapers/UTG and they are LE friendly as well which is better than most out here….. anyways all optic have their plus’s and minus’s just have to roll with what you know… check out Leapers/UTG they are often over looked

    • JakeHound

      nowayout, You are absolutely right about Leapers/UTG line of scopes. I put a 3-9-32 Bugbuster UTG on my Rock River AR-15 for use at the range at 50 and 100 yards. I shoot the heart out of all paper targets that come before me and I credit the scope for most of my success. You see, 61 year old hands and eyes aren’t quite what they used to be, yet I can remain a good shooter using good equipment like Leapers. Probably one of the best low to low-mid range product lines out there. Check out their scope rings, risers, etc. They’ll surprise you too.

  • Dinglehopper

    Americans put $500 optics on $3500 rifles. Europeans put $3000 optics on $1000 rifles.

    • grunt

      The bottom line you can only shot as good as you can see

  • Caveman

    Nutzi Pelosi ….. I agree with you 100%

  • TX Piggy Pounder

    I’m glad to see there is some clarification between some of these posts. The true reason for a rifle like this is for fun or protection. Some people hunt with them but lets face it its not the most reached for rifle when your heading to the deer lease. I built my own AR with parts I personally picked because of there quality and proven reputation. Yes I will agree if you just bought a cheap $600 off the rack AR to shot beer cans & claim membership in the black rifle club then it makes sense you would buy a cheap scope to match. I mean I have a cheap of the rack AR in 22lr with a cheap knock off scope that is lots of fun and at $50 per 500rnd it doesn’t break the bank. Would I yank it out of the safe if the SHTF? Hell no! I would grab my 300 blackout! So if your planning on having it as part of your home/family protection line up then its in your best interest to buy the parts that will work 99.9% of the time and give you any edge over your threat that you can possible get! So when it comes to something I may pick up and use as means of defence I would rather have a safe full of the “best” then some crap I had a coupon for! Just my two cents. Which is how much I had left after building my AR and buying optics! LMAO!

    • nowayout

      I’d put my leaper against any other optics at 500meters…..I depend on money on a nightly basis(career choice) I use iron up too 100meters and optics after so 99% of my stuff is done iron sighted…..however recon and Intel gathering is done with optics for proper ID and definition of objects…believe me I know the holy sh*# what did I just spend feeling….LOL not taking away from anyone’s choice of optics……like you said just my 2 cents…..and yes we qualify with both sight systems annually……or more

  • nathan

    why isn’t the utg bug buster not on here it has about 700 reviews at amazon and opticsplanet with a average of 4 1/2 stars. its a $100 3x9x32 scope with allot of extra’s

  • sarah mcdonald

    I would like to ask about Hawke Panorama. Is this scope good or is there something better in the same category/price etc.?
    Thanks for advice!

  • alex

    What I was taught when I went thru training was to take the cost of your particular rifle and cut the total rifle price in half 1/2 to figure out the amount of money to spend for the optic you’re looking to mount on your AR-15. For example my Adcore Defense Bear Elite cost me $1400.00 out the door so, the price of my optic should be in the $700.00 dollar range.
    If you’re willing to shell out good money for a particular rifle it doesn’t make sense to slap on some inexpensive optic a top of your rifle.

  • David Cameron

    I would love to get an ACOG, but I cannot find any under $200.00. Majority of them are in thousands of dollars.

  • jd2000

    i’m just an average shooter, and hunter. i only hunt with a rifle a few times a year, and visit the range a few times a year, and just recently have been getting into guns and optics seriously in the last few years. Here’s my take on guns and optics.

    I can say this from my experience, all scopes are not created equal! Generally, and i repeat generally, the more you spend the better glass, and precision of the turret adjustment you will be getting. But not everyone needs high end glass and precision adjustment for their style of shooting. The quality of glass mainly becomes evident in low light settings. Like just before dark, before sunrise, night shooting and overcast days. I used a bushnell 3×9 for years and killed many deer at 100+ yrds, but at dusk it became very difficult to aquire the target. Then i switched to a high end nikon and the difference was night and day. So from what I’ve seen, the main difference is clarity and light transmission in low light settings. If you’re always at a 100yrd range in the daytime shooting at paper, then you could get by with a bushnell or bsa scope, no problem.
    The next thing is the turrets. If i move my nikon 4 clicks, its 1″ at 100 yrds. the bushnells, simmons, and BSA’s are hit or miss. I’m sure there are good ones out there, but i haven’t had one yet. All the leupolds i’ve used are also as good if not better than my nikon’s.
    So, basically it boils down to what type of shooting you are doing. If your using your AR to hunt varmint or medium game at the capability of your gun(600yrds with a non match grade barrel, maybe 1000yrds with match grade) at all different lighting and yardages, most people would need a higher end optic with a higher magnification to be a successful shooter. Your gun will only be as accurate as the scope allows you to be, and of course the shooter himself. I personally am looking at the leupold mark AR 4x12x40 mil dot reticle to put on top of my core 15 tac m4 UL 2 223/5.56. I also have an A post front sight and magpul flip up rear sight, should my scope fail, or get in close combat at 100yrds in. But i want a scope that gives me the ability to shoot a 3-5″ group at the effective range of my gun. (600 yrds) I have shooting contests sometimes wit hfriends, and i’d like to know that i can make an accurate 500yrd shot at a deer’s heart if i needed to. After spending the 700$ on the gun, 100-200$ in accessories, ammunition, i can’t see why you would need to sell yourself short on the optics and save maybe 100-200$ on a cheap one, for a weapon that will last you and your kids for a lifetime. Just my opinion.

  • Franco

    I am running into this delima as we speak. I put a cheap Simmons scope that I have had for years on my new ar308 until i could make a decision. It shoots where it is suppose to. The problem is that the optics are not real clear and bright. Eye relief is lacking and it takes longer to get on target. There is value in good optics. If you spend thousands on a big hunting trip and they fail does that make sense? I think I’m going for a mid priced optic like a nikon or Leopold in the $200 range and put some iron sights on it as a backup

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